More drive-by disability suits

We’ve previously covered lawyers who file hundreds of lawsuits alleging discrimination against the disabled over alleged technical violations of the law, and then extort settlements at thousands of dollars a pop. (E.g., Nov. 4; Aug. 28; May 31, 2005). The Sacramento Bee recently ran an extensive series on the issue. (Marjie Lundstrom and Sam Stanton, “Visionary law’s litigious legacy”, Nov. 15 ; Id., “Frequent filers”, Nov. 16; Id., “Targeting entire towns”, Nov. 12; Bullet-point summary).

A California court has interpreted that state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act to only provide $4000 penalties in the case of intentional violations of the law; while this is a good public policy result in the abstract, I’m personally wary of the court using its judicial power to rewrite the poor legislation. It also doesn’t fix the problem with the federal law. (Gunther v. Lin; Wendy Thomas Russell, “Court ruling puts crimp in disability lawsuits”, Long Beach Press Telegram, Nov. 19). And in Florida, the press is just getting around to noticing the drive-by problem because of Robert Cohen’s 300 suits. (Kelli Kennedy, “‘Drive by’ suits rake in dough for attorneys”, AP/Miami Herald, Nov. 28 (h/t W.F.)). Even reflexive reform opponent Stephanie Mencimer takes notice and can’t defend the parasitic lawyering involved, but manages to spin the issue to implausibly blame the Republicans for the problem—though the ADA’s civil remedies were drafted by Democrats when they controlled Congress in 1991.


  • Where are the genuinely disabled. As a law designed to provide them benefit is abused, our patience for disabled rights, accomodation, and future legal maneuvers they may wish wears thin.

    Unless maybe the disabled see this as a good turnabout of events. In an OJ sort of way that the black jury knew he did it but had a bigger agenda to push than put a murder in jail.

  • I appreciate your concern about judicial activism, Ted, but it seems to me that the Gunther opinion consists of garden variety interpretation of conflicting laws according to the well-accepted rules of statutory construction. The bottom line is, the buffoons who wrote Unruh did a crappy job of drafting. No surprise there — the entire law is crap.